Energy Force Ambassador Program is the country's first energy-efficiency education program designed for and taught by people with disabilities. Read below to learn more about the Energy Force Ambassadors.
Alex graduated from Orchard Village's Orchard Academy in 2013. He was first employed at Great Lakes Naval Base, where he quickly distinguished himself as a leader. He completed courses to become a crew leader, and worked in that capacity for over a year. Alex recently left the Naval Base and is currently employed at Buffalo Wild Wings, where he performs maintenance work. In his free time, he is an athlete with Special Olympics and plays on the basketball, softball, and track teams. He has won a number of medals for his athleticism. Alex is also exceptionally friendly and outgoing. He is always willing to help out and lend a hand to those in need. When asked about his future, he dreams of living independently and being able to support himself financially.
Theresa Benckendorf is 26 years old and lives in Streator with her mom, dad, and her dog, Gracie. She is an outgoing young lady with down syndrome. Her social personality helps her be comfortable in front of crowds. Theresa is a graduate from Streator High School and she attends Streator Unlimited’ s sheltered work program Monday through Friday, where they serve 42 adults with disabilities by teaching skills to live as independently as possible and become integrated in the community. Outside of work, Theresa enjoys Special Olympics, Choose to Shine Fashion Show, and Penguin Project’s theater program where she was Annie’s Miss Hannigan in Streator’s spring play. Theresa is very honored to represent Streator Unlimited as a ComEd Ambassador.
Ashley is originally from southern Illinois and moved to Friedman Place in 2018 to be more independent. Ashley graduated high school, attended two years of community college and worked as a baby-sitter in her teenage years. In her free time, Ashley enjoys listening to music and attending church activities.
Austin Community Family Center
Richard Boykin is a seasoned, life-long resident of the Westside community. He is an outgoing, gregarious and knowledgeable person. Richard is an alumnus of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, as well as Tri-State Bible College in South Point, Ohio. Richard has extensive knowledge of venues on the west-side of Chicago and his experience is welcomed by everyone he encounters. He is married and has three children.
Oak Leyden Developmental Services
Patrice Collins is a graduate of Triton College. Patrice participates in Oak Leyden's choir well as her local church's choir. She is a role model for her peers and has a high level of independence. She wants to live independently with the help of her family and her organization. One of her goals is to have a job to be able to support herself financially.
Helping Hand Center
Alexander is a charismatic, social individual that attends Helping Hand Center. In his free time, Alexander enjoys knitting, crocheting and sewing as well as spending time with his family. When the weather allows, Alexander enjoys spending time outdoors and enjoys gardening. Alexander has become an advocate on environmental issues, leading discussions in Helping Hand Center’s program regarding recycling and energy conservation.
Trinity Services South
Keyanna graduated from Lincoln-Way Central High School and was an active part of her school’s choir and participated in the school musical. Keyanna has a beautiful singing voice and is currently a valued member of her church choir. She is now looking forward to starting her college coursework in the fall and plans to major in psychology with an emphasis in music therapy. She has a love for helping people and hopes to use music therapy to reach people and help them be understood. Keyanna feels that the most valuable lesson that one can learn is “accepting the value of diversity.”
Jessica has an endless array of skills that have made her an impeccable role model for her peers through the years. A Texan at birth, Jessica's journey to Chicago began in the mid 90's as she was a graduate of Saint Gregory High School in 1999. Post graduation Jessica focused on exploring her talents through a position as an usher at Wrigley Field as well as an activity assistant at a retirement community.
Bill is a graduate of Arkansas State University with a Bachelors of Arts in Social Work and has a passion for the environment. Before obtaining his degree, Bill held several manufacturing positions. However, after Bill acquired his brain injury he knew he had to switch gears. It was then that Bill realized he wanted to help other people in the same way that he was helped during his recovery. Bill is an active member at Grace Lutheran Church and is hoping to assist with an up and coming mobile food pantry.
David Hence is a constant student of art. He captures daily life of the world around him in an effortless painterly style, using color and bold brushstrokes to create movement for each piece. David doesn’t let his disability stop him from training and making a living as an artist. He uses local coffee shops and the streets of Chicago as his classroom. David was inspired to start drawing and painting by his mom and brother at a young age and was encouraged by teachers to hone his skills. David sometimes collects his sketches into multi-paned stories and books, featuring characters who find themselves in difficult situations. He observes and records how they react, learn and reflect on their challenges.
Park Lawn Services
Andy is a Park Lawn participant. Andy is known for his pleasant disposition, outgoing personality, love of Chicago's sports teams, and his ability to create tasty treats in the kitchen. He enjoys spending his free time with family and friends; shooting pool, singing Karaoke, attending concerts, and playing bags. If you call Park Lawn's Vocational Services, you may have the pleasure of being greeted by Andy, who works as an office assistant at the reception desk.
Special Olympics Illinois
Lisa Noble is a seven-sport athlete with Special Olympics Illinois. She lives in Evanston with her husband Kurt, who is also a Special Olympics athlete. They train together through Evanston Special Recreation, and enjoy a wide range of activities, including all that Chicago has to offer like ball games, concerts and festivals. She also served as an ambassador for the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics in Chicago in the summer of 2018 and provided voiceover talent for a nationwide commercial produced by one of Special Olympics' largest sponsors. Lisa has overcome tremendous physical challenges, many surgeries, and autism spectrum disorder to achieve great things in life and with Special Olympics. She now brings that same determination and enthusiasm to her role as a ComEd Energy Force Ambassador.
Gateway to Learning
Elizabeth is someone that exemplifies "active inclusion" in her community. She participates in several activities around Chicago while being especially involved with Special Olympics and the Chicago Park District. During the past seven years, Elizabeth has participated in the culinary arts programs at Gateway to Learning. Through her training at Gateway to Learning, Elizabeth has earned her ServSafe Food Handler's Certificate. Elizabeth continues to develop her customer service skills while also training in Gateway to Learning's social enterprise, Dorothy's Can-Do Cafe.
Joey is a young man who attends the Clearbrook Autism Program (CAP). In Joey's free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, keeping current with stock prices and volunteering at various non-profits such as Bernie's Book Bank and Feed My Starving Children.
Corvisa is a very smart, willing, and hard worker who enjoys working with people. Corvisa is known amongst her peers as being dependable in her work and as a very free-spirited individual.
Shore Community Services
Kevin is a graduate of Maine East High School and also attended a non-degree Liberal Arts program at Oakton Community college for 4 years. Kevin's work history includes Warehouse Fulfillment at Opportunity Medical, where he also served as a member of the Safety Committee, Front Desk Reception at Oakton Community College, and Packaging and Assembly work at Shore Koenig Training Center. Kevin practices energy saving solutions at home such as using energy efficient light bulbs, keeping lights on a timer, timing the thermostat, and recycling.
Brian is a lifelong resident of Tinley Park who graduated with honors with a BA in geography in 2014. Through his academic course work, volunteer experience and participation in environmental clubs, Brian has knowledge of environmental issues and is highly interested in conservation. Also, Brian enjoys attending sports game and follows Chicago professional sports teams with a strong passion. Brian enjoys traveling with his family and spending time with his two dogs.
Cristian is a graduate of Gage Park High School and has been with El Valor since 2010. One of the first big trips Cristian signed up for was the annual weeklong trip to Camp Confidence in Brainard, Minnesota in August 2011. He went camping with a group of friends and Coach Cruz in which he was able to truly experience wilderness activities.
Michael Scanlan is a young man who recently moved into Franklin Grove group home through Kreider Services. Michael grew up at home with his family in Prophetstown. Michael is a hard-working young man who values his family the most. He enjoys hanging out with his friends and playing video games in his spare time.
GiGi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Awareness Center
Kathryn graduated from Waubonise Valley High School in 2010 with an academic diploma and just completed a 2 year certification program at Technical Center of DuPage in Data Entry. She continues to take academic classes in the Naperville, IL District 204 Transition program.
Kathryn is currently taking classes at College Of DuPage and is a board member at GiGi's Playhouse, a center that serves families with children who have Down syndrome. She has also participated in Special Olympics for several years and holds multiple gold, silver and bronze medals.
Daniel Smrokowski was born premature and was diagnosed at a young age with learning disabilities and a severe language disorder. He is now an award-winning columnist covering special needs stories. Daniel is the founder of Special Chronicles, a pioneering nonprofit new media network that gives respect and voice to people with special needs. Daniel is also involved as an athlete and global messenger with Special Olympics Illinois. In December 2012, Daniel graduated from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. Daniel received first place for "Best Original Column" in the 2016 Illinois Press Association. Daniel was named among 10 other advocates, a national finalist for the American Association of People with Disabilities 2015 Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award. He was the recipient of the 2012 Les H. Brownlee Scholarship from the Chicago Headline Club. Daniel was also the recipient of the 2012 Matthew Freeman Award for Social Justice from Roosevelt University for his continuing efforts via media and reporting to give people with disabilities a voice.
Through his work as a Podcaster, Blogger, award-winning Journalist, Public Speaker, Multimedia specialist, radio show host, and Award-winning Special Olympics athlete, he enjoys spreading the message to respect and give voice to others, like himself, who were diagnosed with the "disability" label.
Easter Seals Chicago
Maurice has beaten the odds. A young man living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has achieved his college degree and a job. For many with autism spectrum disorder, such achievements are beyond reach. Maurice, however, exhibits milder effects of the complex neurological disorder. Despite that advantage, Maurice's future was uncertain for most of his childhood. Before his first birthday, his parents, Jennifer and Willie, noticed a change.
UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago
Danny Temponeras is a participant at UCP Seguin, he graduated from Morton West High School and currently does work at the Mooney's Car Wash operated by UCP Seguin to build his talents. He has been an asset to the organization and loves technology. He is fascinated by the inner working of things especially electronics and cars. He says he loves to work around people. He is forward thinking and has excellent verbal communication skills and takes instructions well. He enjoys the phrase, "Work Smarter not harder" and uses his iPhone Siri frequently for tasks. To his credit, he built his own computer from used parts from other computers. He says his computer has ''no name" because it is a combination of various components from different manufacturers. Because of his curiosity, he likes to use the internet to find how things work and therefore says "YouTube teaches me how to take things apart and put them together".
Special Olympics Chicago
Lucas is a lifelong resident of Chicago. He graduated from Solorio Academy in 2014. He has worked and volunteered for the Chicago Park District for the past 6 summers as a Junior Counselor and enjoys helping young children. Lucas loves sports and is a huge fan of the Chicago teams - especially the Cubs and Bulls. He enjoys watching games and keeping track of scores. Lucas has participated in Special Olympics for the past 2 years and has recently become an Ambassador for Special Olympics. He also loves playing with his dog and talking to and interacting with people everywhere.
Best Buddies Illinois
Dana is a lifelong Chicagoland resident, who grew up in the Oak Park school district and currently resides in a group home near Oak Park. Dana is known for her work ethic and vibrant personality. Dana has been involved in Best Buddies Programs since Middle School and now not only volunteers for the organization, but also commutes to work in the Chicago office twice a week as a Programs Assistant for Best Buddies Illinois. Dana is also a strong self-advocate, and a member of the Best Buddies Ambassador Program. She has spoken at numerous schools in the Chicagoland area as well as at various State Fundraisers for the Illinois office. Dana is an inspiration to others and she is looking forward to growing in another community leadership role with ComEd.
Ray Graham Association
Nicole is a vibrant, enthusiastic, young woman who loves trying new things and is always willing to learn and offer a helping hand. Nicole has previous work experience in customer services, working at Jewel Osco as a bagger and shopping cart attendant. She also worked at Kohl's in the fitting room and tended to various customer inquiries.
Northwestern Illinois Center for Independent Living (NICIL)
Xavier is a lifelong resident of Sterling Illinois, located in northwestern Illinois.
Xavier has been faced with many challenges in his life but has overcome many of those challenges because of his strong work ethic. Xavier began volunteering for Goodwill Industries his junior year in high school in October 2012 and was hired on in February 2013 as a Donations Associate where he continues to work part-time. Xavier loves his job and enjoys providing a high level of customer service.
Xavier began attending Sauk Valley Community College in fall 2014. He continues to attend college part-time, working towards an Associate’s degree. Xavier enjoys school and has become very proficient at writing papers. Xavier also volunteers at NICIL once a week answering phones and greeting visitors as they arrive.
Xavier is a member of the Ambassadors Club which is funded by the Bi-County Cooperative Foundation. The Ambassadors Club is a group of young adults with disabilities that meet socially to work together as a team to give back to their community. Xavier is also active in Special Olympics and has had the privilege of attending State competition several times.
Xavier has a positive attitude and a million-dollar smile! It is this attitude and tremendous work ethic that will help him accomplish all his hopes and dreams. In the future, Xavier plans to live independently with the support of his family and NICIL services.